Index to autobiography

   
My Schooldays Childhood
Court Jester to Warwick University University
A time of transition A time of transition
My new life My new life
My life as a carer, and a very special day! My life as a carer
Coventry Council of Disabled People and its role in my life Campaigning
Beyond my mothers departure my mothers departure
Beyond diagnosis Beyond Diagnosis
Study and the NAS Study and the NAS
Seven times Seven 7 times 7

Pictures of me

Pictures of me

Where I grew up

Where I grew up (pix)
   
 

Living with Asperger's syndrome, by Larry Arnold


Beyond Diagnosis

And so I put metaphorical pen to paper after the Christmas pause of 2001 having made many modifications to my website but left off the story of my life at the point where I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

My life was about to take a new turning, as I was in spite of everything determined to help myself get some advantage in the world of work by gaining some practical qualifications for the things I already knew I could do.

It was not thanks to the Disability Employment services that I found a couple of suitable courses at Hereward College, a far cry from the mythical residential courses that were promised me. In fact I had not been formally diagnosed at the time I applied and I had not thought that AS would be any problem were I to declare it but I was wrong.

I had been honest with the college and on enrolling had discussed my situation with the colleges educational pyschologist.

As a result of that my admission to the college was delayed while they sought further reports, apparantly they were concerned at the impact I might have on other students.

This was not what I expected from a college which has a large number of disabled students and I argued my case to no avail. It would seem that something which my Doctor had written to the college had been uncomplementary and given them cause for concern.

However half way into the term I was admitted and somewhat disgruntled to start late on the course. It was only one and a half days a week but it started to give my life the structure it had been lacking and brought me into everyday contact with people and routine again.

To begin with I did feel rather lost and did not make any attempts to socialise with the other students who were much younger than I however I did for the first time meet other people with Asperger's.

One student on my course came up to me over break and announced that he had Asperger's to which I replied that so had I and through him I met some of the other students with Asperger's. It was good to be able to relate to them and to recognisemsome of myself in them too.

During this year I also made many contacts through the internet and joined various mailing lists and newsgroups. I was through one of the lists that I found someone who was willing to help me gain disability benefits. I duly applied just after Christmas but did not remotely think I would qualify and so there followed a long period of anxious waiting until June when they were approved to my amazement. It should not really have been to my amazement as Dave, one of the other student I met with AS had been recieving them for a long time.

The long depression I had been suffering began to lift with the knowledge that I was coping with my course and I regained the confidence that I was good at photography which I had begun to doubt upon the failure of my business.

When my disability benefits came through my worries about finances disappeared almost overnight, I had a substantial back payment and enough money to provide for me. I had up till now been living in a situation of debt and limited income which was leading me into cycles of desperation and suicidal thinking.

As the term neared its end I began to become worried again about what should follow and decided to ignore the disability employment service and arrange an employment related course for myself.

The aim of this was to give me continued structure throughout the summer and to validate my computer skills further by getting a basic certificate in information technology. This first was easily accomplished in a couple of afternoons, however there were many other aspects of the course which were less suitable. For instance a lot of the time was wasted in something called job search. We were essentially left with a pile of newspapers to sort through and expected to apply for jobs however unsuitable or unlikely we were to get them, in order to justify our continuing to receive benefits. In fact I was under more pressure to apply for work than when I was signing on in that at least I was exempt from applying for unuitable work which I could not do.

I found it frustrating because I wanted to be able to go on and get more computer certificates but it appeared that nothing was at all reliable in this course. Rooms were swapped and there was really no help beyond the basics for anybody. People with some existing computer skills usually ended up helping out those who had none.

There was also the requirement to attend a job club which was again a bit of a joke, none of the support in form filling etc which I would have needed was there in reality and I did no more than was necessary in registering with it but never attending.

Eventually though I got what I desired, a work placement negotiated for me with a charity called Baby Lifeline which was situated much to my satisfaction on the campus at Hereward College. Here after a little discussion I found myself with a real task to sort out, that of restoring a somewhat corrupted and underused donors database to functioning order.

I truly believe I was the only person that the training centre could have sent who was really in any sense qualified for the job. Not because of what they taught but because of what I already knew and because of my intuitive facility with databases. I could almost describe it as a savant ability because I was able to transform thousands of entries using various tricks I evolved to make the task easier and was able to keep up at repetitive tasks on my own with minimum disturbance.

I enjoyed this as it gave me a real sense of doing something useful and this I believe to have been the turning point in the lifting of my depression. I suddenly began to realise I was not depressed and was content with my day. I looked forward to the work and felt satisfied when I had done it.

However there was an unseen irony to all this because I had enrolled already to do a full time course as soon as the academic term started up at Hereward. An access course in TV and Video, which is essentially a course to take one up to university entrance level. I had never used video and this seemed like a logical extension of photography.

There was one snag. The benefits system would not allow me to do it while I was still signing for work . A real anomaly as this was a properly structured further education course in real practical skills taught by qualified people, not the ridiculous put together courses run by various training companies tendering to the employment department which were just time fillers as far as I was concerned.

I had got advice that I would have to claim an incapacity benefit in order to continue and that I would need my doctors support for this. Something I despaired at because I did not know how to approach my doctor about this.

In the end I booked an appointment with him, wrote it all out first and confronted him with it. To my surprise he was sympathetic and signed me off without any trouble. I guess after his previous letter to the college that made it difficult for me he had come to realise just how important it was to me. I was not defrauding anyone either because had I not been able to go back to college full time, with the structure and support that gave me, I would have gone rapidly back into my depression with serious consequences, which I guess my doctor understood.

 

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Copyright 1999, 2011 Laurence Arnold

This page created Sunday February 10th 2002
Revised Monday December 8th 2003

Latest Revision Monday January 17th 2011